Monday, 19 November 2012

Film Review | American Pie: Reunion (2012)

The year that the original American Pie film was released was the year I turned fifteen, putting me somewhere close to front and centre of the target audience for what would become the first instalment of the franchise. Thirteen years later, and I have just turned twenty-eight, something which the makers of the series' fourth outing (not including the straight-to-DVD cash-ins that I have never gone anywhere near) are acutely aware. This is a film not aimed primarily at the teenagers of today, but at those who were teenagers at the turn of the millennium. American Pie: Reunion plays the nostalgia card throughout, which at times works very much in its favour, but at others is a reminder that a fair few of the high school antics of Jim (Jason Biggs), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Oz (Chris Klein), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Stifler (Seann William Scott) are probably better left in 1999.

The film sees many a familiar face from the original film return to Great East Falls for a "Class Of '99" high school reunion. Whilst everyone is older and many things have changed, the main quintet use the reunion as a chance to try and rekindle some of the fun that they used to share in their high school days.

American Pie: Reunion lays its cards out pretty clearly from the word "go". The opening scene includes not one, but two wanking gags, as well as paying homage to a certain piece of clothing that played a key role in the opening moments of the first film. This is crude and low brow just as every previous offering has been, but it's also regularly quite funny.

Reunion also never tries to hide the fact that it's paying tribute to the series' origins. The original trilogy suffered from the law of diminishing returns, with the third outing - American Pie: The Wedding - feeling extremely lacklustre from the lazy attempts at humour to the fact that several key members of the cast were missing. Writing and directing duo Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg are well aware that one thing Reunion needs to do is rectify this, and on the whole they succeed. So we have all five of the male leads back, even if not all of them get to do much of interest. For American Pie fans, it'll just be good to see them all together. The film is also set - for the first time since the first film - almost entirely in Great East Falls, something which helps to cement the feeling of nostalgia and paying tribute to the franchise opener.

That's not to say that Reunion is an unqualified success. The plot threads that the film weaves vary in quality, from the mostly amusing antics of Jim and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) attempting to rekindle the flame in their marriage after having a son, to the predictable and repetitive subplot regarding Kevin's crisis of conscience over realising he (shock horror) still holds a flame for Vicky (Tara Reid) even though he is now married. It doesn't help that both Vicky and Heather (Mena Suvari), the two key female characters from the series, get absolutely nothing of interest to do, making the whole thing feel somewhat imbalanced.

The inescapable fact that these characters are now meant to be in their thirties also makes some sequences of the film unpleasantly uncomfortable. An entire plot thread involving Kara (Ali Cobrin), Jim's next door neighbour whom he used to babysit and who is now celebrating her eighteenth birthday, regularly leaves a bad taste in your mouth and will make you squirm. It's at points like this that Reunion strays too far from gross-out comedy, becoming just grossly inappropriate.

There is still a lot to like here though, and the good outweighs the bad. The final act ramps up the nostalgia with cameos and references aplenty (disappointingly, Casey Affleck fails to make an appearance as Kevin's long-distance big brother), and provides several moments likely to bring a broad smile, if not a belly laugh, from Pie fanatics. It won't win any new fans to the franchise, but then Reunion patently was never made to do so. It's not as good as the first film, but it's a notable improvement on the third, and arguably surpasses the first sequel in some ways. American Pie: Reunion ends up a worthwhile and enjoyable, if flawed, addition to the American Pie canon.



  1. The original gang is back and still have the comedic timing they did 13 years ago, which is always fun no matter what. There isn’t anything new or special about this entry into the series but for anyone who wants some nice 1999 nostalgia, then this is the perfect fit. Good review Lebamski. I liked it a lot more than the previous two sequels though, which may not be saying too much but still says something.

    1. Thanks for the comment, glad you enjoyed the review. The longer I have to think on this one, the more I think this is actually the strongest instalment in the franchise since the original film. It's been while since I've watched American Pie 2, but I remember it feeling decidedly patchy the last time I saw it. This felt like it had a stronger thread running through it, and all the references to the first film felt nicely done. I also thought Eugene Levy was as funny as he's been since the first film here.